To fight environmentalist sabotage, conservatives need their own set of business principles.
Gender ideology and the assault on families and parents.
The following is a transcript of remarks originally given in Miami at the National Conservatism Conference in September 2022.
In the early Spring I began working on a documentary series for Independent Women’s Forum called “Identity Crisis.” The project tells the stories of four mothers whose daughters fell victim to gender ideology, two detransitioners who now warn of the harms this movement is causing, and one mental health professional who rails against her profession for prioritizing political correctness over public health.
This series was inspired by the censorship and media blackout these individuals have faced. The number of transgender-identifying youth has nearly doubled in recent years, which has left politicians, educators, medical professionals, and the public at odds over what policies are best suited to protect the health and well-being of children. Despite the high stakes, the media is only telling one side of the story. We’re here to change that, and I’m here to shed light on some of the personal devastation that these individuals and families have faced.
The most recent story published in our series features Vera Lindner, an immigrant mother from California who says gender ideology drove her autistic, gender-confused daughter into a “catastrophic” mental breakdown. Her daughter faced a slew of mental health issues that needed to be addressed: she was diagnosed with autism, ADHD, depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder. But all the therapist who was supposed to be treating her wanted to do was “affirm” her new male identity. From the moment her daughter declared her transgender identity, the therapist started referring to her daughter as a boy. No questions asked.
This mother’s story explores a huge aspect of the transgender movement that politicians, medical professionals, media, and activists don’t want to acknowledge, let alone explore—the connection between autism and transgenderism. It’s malpractice.
The first story featured in our series involved Jeannette Cooper, a Chicago mother who lost custody of her 12-year-old daughter for insisting that she is a girl. After a regular custodial visit to her father’s house, Jeannette’s daughter decided she was trans and felt “unsafe” around her mom. In the last 3 years, Jeannette has seen her daughter for a total of 8 and a half hours. It’s been so long that Jeannette doesn’t even know how tall her daughter is anymore. She’s only allowed to communicate with her by postal mail. As Jeannette said, “People who are in prison have more communication with their child than I do. It’s wrong.”
Then came Jennifer, a mother from a Seattle suburb who in 2019 received an email from her daughter’s 5th-grade teacher. The teacher, a male, was using a different name for her then-10-year-old daughter. Jennifer thought it was a mistake—the teacher must have accidentally emailed the wrong parent. But Jennifer later found out that for six months, her daughter was meeting with a school therapist once a week who was treating her as a boy, using male pronouns and a made-up male name.
In February 2020, right before COVID-19 hit, that therapist emailed Jennifer to schedule a meeting where the therapist would assist her daughter in officially “coming out” to her parents as a boy, and to obtain parental permission to allow her daughter to stay overnight in the boy’s cabin for an upcoming school trip. At this point, Jennifer’s daughter was only 11 years old, so the school had to obtain permission. But had she been 13, Jennifer wouldn’t even have had a right to know because she lives in Washington state, where children as young as 13 years old can access their own medical and mental health services without parental knowledge or consent.
Parents in these cases are billed by insurance companies with no explanation of benefits, meaning they’re stuck with the tab but have no ability to know what services or treatments their child received. California is trying to take it one step further, making itself a “sanctuary state” for children to receive hormones, puberty blockers, and irreversible “gender surgery” without parental consent.
Next came Susie, a mom from Alaska who came face-to-face with the growing phenomenon of adolescent girls identifying as the opposite sex due to a social desire to appear transgender. Critics call the social contagion theory “unfounded” and “absurd,” but after returning in 2020 to the U.S. from a four-year assignment abroad, Susie’s family settled into a house on a street where two out of the eight girls identified as boys. At the local high school where their daughter would soon attend, at least another 10 girls identified as the opposite sex. Shortly after moving there, Susie’s oldest daughter, who had just turned 15, also said she felt like a boy. Susie’s daughter had previously never expressed any discomfort about her gender, but the Left considers this a complete coincidence.
Susie disclosed to her new school counselor in Alaska that her daughter was struggling with mental health issues including anxiety, depression, and gender confusion. Susie thought the school was on the same page with how she and her husband wanted to handle their daughter’s sudden transgender identification—by giving their daughter time to experience and explore her feelings, without changing her name or pronouns. But in fall 2021, at the start of the next school year, Susie found her daughter’s student ID, which featured her new, made-up name.
The fact that the school was socially transitioning Susie’s daughter behind her back came as a surprise to Susie, since the entire year, the school was communicating with Susie using female pronouns and her daughter’s real name. When she eventually decided to confront the school and ask how her daughter’s name would appear in the yearbook, school officials told Susie that she has no say over anything her daughter wants to go by or what’s in her record, erroneously citing federal Title IX requirements.
Every one of these mothers’ stories are different. They’re all horrifying in their own way. But all of them have a common theme: A deep and painful sense of betrayal.
The Serpent’s Sting
Mothers, many of them former Democrats, are sickened and betrayed by Democrat politicians whom they spent a lifetime supporting. Democrats who’ve chosen to affirm a toxic ideology that exploits vulnerable children instead of protecting them.
They’re sickened and betrayed by public school educators and administrators lying to them and changing their children’s names and pronouns in-secret, behind their backs. They’re sickened and betrayed by a legal system that was designed to protect children, but is instead using gender ideology as a weapon to sever one of the most fundamental bonds in life—the bond between a mother and her child.
They’re sickened and betrayed by health professionals who took an oath to protect patients from harm and injustice, yet perpetuate just that. They’re sickened and betrayed by a media echo chamber convincing the public that lying to children about their gender is the “kind” and “compassionate” thing to do, when doing so leads children down a path of lifelong doctor’s appointments and medical complications.
They’re sickened and betrayed by seemingly every adult with an ounce of authority, from so-called “support groups” to the President of the United States, sending this message: “We know better than the parents do what’s best for this child,” as if anyone in the world could know and love a child more than that child’s own parents.
I started working on this project when I returned from maternity leave with my second child. To be honest, I wasn’t ready at all to get back to work when I did—even with the privilege of being able to work from home. But I believe God purposefully put this project in my lap, giving me, a fellow mom, the opportunity to give these parents a voice. With a 4-month-old baby sleeping on my chest, I spent hours on the phone listening to these moms and wondering, “How did we let this go so far?” Then with my 2-year-old daughter knocking at my office door asking, “Mommy, are you done with work?” I looked at her through tears wondering, “What if this happened to her?”
I believe what we’re talking about today is a generation of young girls being manipulated and mutilated in a way not much different from female genital mutilation. Which is ironic, because my inspiration for entering this field of work in college was learning about exactly that. But when I was studying them in college, these abuses were always taking place in some far-off country. Never did I imagine reporting on them here at home.
As part of our series, I chose to also tell the stories of two young women who went down the path of a medical transition, only to regret it a few years later. One of them, Daisy Strongin, went so far as to chop off her healthy breasts only to realize shortly after that objectively, she could never actually be a boy. Just a few weeks ago, Daisy gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy. It was the fear of never being able to conceive a child due to medical mutilation that ultimately drove her to give it all up.
During our interview, Daisy told me, “If you told me two years ago that in 2022 you would be married and pregnant, I wouldn’t believe you. My parents told me that I would change a lot, but I just could not conceptualize it.”
Daisy’s now happily married and a new mom. But she’ll never be able to breastfeed, she still grows facial hair, and her voice has been permanently deepened. She doesn’t know in what other ways the years of testosterone may have damaged her body, but she knows she’ll do everything in her power to stop her own child from going down this path.
Another detransitioner who I interviewed, Cat Cattison, told me this:
My parents didn’t affirm me, and at the time it did make me very angry. But looking back, I’m very thankful for that. I think that if I would have been able to transition as a child and gone onto puberty blockers, gone onto cross sex hormones at a young age and cut off body parts, I think I would be looking back and I would be thinking, how could you enable this? How could you have gone along with this when I was too young to consent? I do think that, in the future, we’re going to see a lot of children who have detransitioned being angry with their parents and feeling betrayed by them.
Making Up for Lost Time
Here, then, we come full circle. Not only are parents being betrayed, but children are, too. Thousands of parents are suffering at the hands of the gender ideology movement. But it’s their children who are the greatest victims in it.
As the mom of a young girl, I can sleep at night knowing I’m on the right side of this fight, despite the nasty attacks we face. But what makes it hard to sleep is knowing how as a movement, conservatives were too late. We have already failed thousands of vulnerable young girls, who’ve already started puberty blockers and sterilized themselves. We have already failed thousands of young girls who’ve already cut off their breasts or worse, cut off their own skin from their arms or their legs to make a fake penis.
Families have been ripped apart; parents, children, and siblings have been pitted against each other. Doctors, teachers, media, politicians, and activists have normalized young, healthy children mutilating themselves under the guise of tolerance and compassion. It’s literally normal for doctors today to prescribe gender confused children drugs, surgery, and medical treatments—as if it would ever be normal for doctors to prescribe anorexic girls gastric bypass surgery.
How did we get here? As a movement, we were too late. And even today, we’re not doing enough. But these parents and detransitioners aren’t giving up. They’re refusing to be silenced. They’re using their voices to fight for their children, and we’re doing everything in our power to support them. In some cases, like that of Jeannette Cooper, the Chicago mother who lost custody of her daughter simply for insisting that her daughter is a girl, they’ve made the ultimate sacrifice. They’ve lost the basic ability to even see their own child. Why? What makes these unimaginable costs worth it? Here’s Jeannette explaining, in her own words:
I see that my child is at sea in a boat. She is struggling. She is in tumultuous seas. I know that. I have seen that. And what I have been told is to follow her lead, to follow her in this journey.
I am not willing to do that. I don’t think that is good parenting. It is my responsibility not to hook my boat to hers. It is my responsibility to be a lighthouse, to be something stable that she can see, some guide that she has, that will always be there, that is consistent.
That is my responsibility. I still do that today even though I have no custody of her. I have no medical decision making. No educational decision making. And no way to communicate with her other than by mail. I don’t have her phone number. I know where she lives, but I’m not allowed to go there. I know where she goes to school and I’m not allowed there either. But this is parenting. What I’m doing, even though I have no real contact with her, I am still her parent. I am still her mother. And I am still parenting now.
I’ll close my remarks with this. As conservatives, we give a lot of attention to the idea of leftist policies teaching Americans to hate their own country—as we rightly should. But with gender ideology, the reality is far worse than that: leftist policies are teaching children to hate their own parents and to hate their own bodies. There is something fundamentally wrong with that. It’s perverse, destructive, and needs to be stopped.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.